Page last updated at 05:53 GMT, Friday, 5 June 2009 06:53 UK

Singing contest rivals tuning up

C Cardiff Singer of the World competitors Photo: Brian Tarr
Most of this year's contestants have arrived in Cardiff

Twenty-five operatic young hopefuls are gathering in Wales' capital for one of the world's great competitions, BBC Cardiff Singer of the World.

They have been selected from more than 600 singers from 68 countries who auditioned for the coveted title.

This year Andorra is making its debut and legendary opera diva Dame Gwyneth Jones has joined the judging panel.

A new bursary to help young artists beginning their careers has also been announced.

2009 competitors
Andorra: Marc Canturri, baritone, 32
Argentina: Fernando Javier Radó, bass, 23
Australia: Katharine Tier, mezzo, 27
Bulgaria: Emiliya Ivanova, soprano, 27
Canada: Etienne Dupuis, baritone, 30
Chile: Javier Arrey, baritone, 27
Croatia: Tomislav Lucic, bass, 31
Czech Republic: Jan Martiník, bass, 26
England: Anna Stéphany, mezzo, 31
Hungary: Csaba Szegedi, baritone, 27
Ireland: Helen Kearns, soprano, 27
Israel: Claire Meghnagi, soprano, 31
Italy: Giordano Lucà, tenor, 21
Japan: Eri Nakamura, soprano, 31
Republic of Korea: Ji-Min Park, tenor, 30
Latvia: Dana Bramane, soprano, 25
Mexico: Octavio Moreno, baritone, 27
New Zealand: Wade Kernot, bass, 28
Poland: Izabela Matula, soprano,29
Portugal: Dora Rodrigues, soprano, 30
Russia: Ekaterina Shcherbachenko, soprano, 32
South Africa: Dawid Kimberg, baritone, 28
Ukraine: Yuriy Mynenko, counter-tenor, 30
USA: Vira Slywotzky, soprano, 26
Wales: Natalya Romaniw, soprano, 22

BBC Wales director Menna Richards told the contestants that the bursary came as a result of a bequest from Annie Sankey, who was "a very generous lady and follower of BBC Cardiff Singer of the World" to support those taking part in the competition.

Ms Richards said: "The bursaries will help support the studies of competitors, including helping with travel and the purchase of musical scores."

Singers from as far afield as Chile and Russia, Australia and Latvia are taking part in the 10 days of competition beginning this weekend. Wales' contestant is 22-year-old old soprano Natalya Romaniw from Morriston, Swansea.

The biennial contest was launched in 1983 and this latest crop of competitors are following in the footsteps of some of opera's biggest names whose illustrious careers were launched when they took part - including Bryn Terfel, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Karita Mattila and Lisa Gasteen.

Chinese bass-baritone Shenyang, who lifted the title two years ago, has made his debut at New York's Metropolitan Opera.

English soprano Elizabeth Watts who won the song prize, which runs in parallel to the main competition, recently sang in the Welsh National Opera's (WNO) The Marriage of Figaro, singing Susanna.

WNO general director John Fisher, chair of the judges, said he was really looking forward to the competition.

Natalya Romaniw
Soprano Natalya Romaniw is Wales' entrant

"I always find these events very exciting and extremely stimulating as I'm a great advocate for the support and development of young singers and, of course, this provides a perfect platform to showcase these always exceptional talents from around the world."

The winner will receive a £15,000 prize provided by Cardiff council and will go on to perform with the BBC and WNO.

Ms Richards told the 2009 competitors gathered at a welcome party on Thursday night: "The eyes and ears of the singing world will be on Cardiff over the course of the competition, listening to the creative and musical excellence that exists in this room.

"And so I'd like to wish every one of you the very best of luck and again extend the warmest of welcomes to Cardiff."

BBC Cardiff Singer of the World runs from Sunday to Thursday with the final in St David's Hall, Cardiff on Sunday 14 June.

The second competition - the song prize - runs from Saturday to Tuesday at the New Theatre, Cardiff, with the final in St David's Hall on Friday, 12 June.

Master classes taken by the judges will be at the New Theatre and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama on Saturday, 13 June.

There is extensive coverage of the competition on TV, radio and online.

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